This week, I'm so excited to announce we are giving away 5 autographed copies of The First Pharaoh and 5 autographed copies of The Dagger of Isis by author Lester Picker! All you have to do to win is leave a comment on this post and include your email address. After July 7th, Lester will choose the winners from the copies and contact you directly. I loved both of these books - an exceptional tale of Ancient Egypt, well-researched, and highly entertaining! Enter to win today. Now sit back and enjoy learning more about these fascinating books and the equally as fascinating author.
INTERVIEW WITH LESTER PICKER
The First Pharaoh and The Dagger of Isis
A warm welcome to author, Lester Picker who has joined us today. Lester, I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed reading both of your books.
Where do your stories come from?
My stories flow from different sources. My historical fiction novels about Ancient Egypt- The First Pharaoh and The Dagger of Isis and the upcoming Qa’a- reflect an interest that started when I was a boy and my father would take me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. My general fiction novel, Sargent Mountain, stemmed from a painful divorce and my love of the Maine coast. My novel called The Underground actually came to me in a disturbingly vivid dream. I awoke at 3:00 AM, went downstairs and by 7:30 I had the entire novel outlined.
What is your greatest inspiration?
I would have to say that just being out in nature is inspiring to me and clears my head so I can write. But I’m also inspired by other wonderful writers. Telling stories around the fire circle is about the oldest and most comforting thing we humans have held onto as a species. When I read a book that breaks the mold in telling a great story, I am inspired.
If you couldn’t be a writer, what would be your dream job?
The truth is I already have it! I am also an award-winning nature and landscape photographer, so when I’m not writing, I’m out there photographing. My photo website is: www.lesterpickerphoto.com
How has writing affected your everyday life?
Writing is, in some ways, a cruel mistress. It is a lonely craft and demands focused attention. That means my writing day is usually pretty ordered, when I’m actually writing. My family has to be patient and deal with a pain-in-the-rear writer, whose characters dwell within me 24/7. Once, my wife and I were in the midst of dinner at a restaurant. She noticed I seemed far away. She asked what was wrong and I told her that my main character was in the midst of a fierce battle and I couldn’t get my mind out of the scene. Being as wonderful as she is, she called the waiter and in ten minutes we were on our way home. I wrote into the wee hours of the morning.
Now that my historical fiction is "out there" in eBook and hard copy, and getting mostly 5-star reviews, the comments from readers has been wonderfully uplifting. The dialogue I am having with my readers is simply wonderful. It has really been a life-changing experience... all for the better, of course!
Do your characters evolve or develop as the story progresses
Both! There are times when I find myself actually observing the scene as they do what comes naturally to them. Moments like that are transcendent. I don’t push them, they propel me forward.
How much influence have the people that are closest to you had on your characters and who they are?
I always have two or three readers critically read my work, but only after I complete the second or third draft. At that point I always ask them if the characters are “real,” if they elicit emotional responses, if they evolve and grow believably throughout the story. My wife, Leslie, and my friend, Terry, are two of my readers and they always give me candid and constructive feedback.
Were your historical novels research intensive? If so what was your best sources of information.
My two (soon to be three) historical fiction novels required immense amounts of research. I visited Egypt several times, interviewed Egyptologists and had three of the world’s most prominent Egyptologists as my mentors. In addition I read everything I could get my hands on about that pre-Dynastic and early Dynastic period. My personal library on Egypt is bigger than most public libraries. I also lived with a Bedouin tribe in Egypt’s Eastern Desert to learn firsthand about conditions there.
Do you write from an outline or just an idea?
I am an inveterate outliner. I get the basic premise of the book down on paper first. Then I create an ever-increasingly detailed outline. Finally I move to a chapter-by-chapter outline. This carefully constructed roadmap often goes out the window as my characters develop and the story arc moves forward, but the basic outline is still recognizable when the book is done.
Favorite author now
A tough question! I loved Life of Pi by Yann Martel. I feel it is one of the most carefully constructed, well-written works of modern literature about the primacy of story-telling. Then there is Cutting for Stone by Abramham Verghese and some of the many works of Barbara Kingsolver or Kent Haruf. Too many goodies out there to settle for one treat! I’m a pretty eclectic reader. For historical fiction I have always loved Mary Renault and her Alexander the Great novels. I also just read a wonderful historical fiction account of Achilles by Madeline Miller (The Song of Achilles).
Lester Picker Bio
Lester A. Picker has more than 650 writing and photo credits in National Geographic Society publications, Better Homes & Gardens, Forbes, Time, Inc. Publications, Money, Fortune Small Business, Bloomberg Personal Finance, National Parks Magazine, and dozens of other publications. He is a former newspaper reporter, photographer and editor. For three years Les was a columnist for Oceans Magazine and for four years was Editor-In-Chief for a national environmental journal. Les is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA), Nikon Professional Services (NPS) and Hasselblad Professionals.
For four years, Les was a weekly columnist for The Baltimore Sun and continues as a freelance feature travel writer/photographer. For three years, Les was a regular business commentator on National Public Radio's Marketplace, carried on 260 stations nationwide. He co-authored a book about macular degeneration with Bert Glaser, M.D., published by Addicus Books. He contributed a chapter to the ASJA Guide to Freelance Writing (St. Martin’s Press).
Les has published four major novels. The first two are part of his First Dynasty Trilogy which covers Ancient Egypt's first kings. The First Pharaoh describes the rise to power of King Narmer and his struggles to unite Upper and Lower Egypt under one rule. The sequel, The Dagger of Isis, traces the rule of the very first woman king, Meryt-Neith. The third volume, Qa'a, will be out in late 2013. Les has also published Sargent Mountain, a work of women's fiction exploring the meaning of love and betrayal and The Underground, about a woman who discovers that her birth mother was brutally murdered when she was a baby. All are available through his Amazon Author's Page.
Les has an earned doctorate in environmental affairs from the University of Maine at Orono, was a faculty member at the University of Delaware and an adjunct faculty at The Johns Hopkins University. Writing information, including releases about Les' latest novels, can be found on his writing website.